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The unusual life of

Peter Cameron .

Peter Cameron proved to be a somewhat slippy guy to pin down, from the word go. When compiling the Cameron Tree, at first there seemed to be a Peter and a Patrick born to James Cameron & Anne Watson, almost all 0f the other people's trees I have found have them both. However on closer examination this does not really stand up.

In the Parish records (OPR) for Duthil the birth & baptism of Patrick is clearly recorded, as they are for all of his many brothers and sisters. So James & Anne were clearly not laggards when it came to getting their kids baptised. However I can find no corresponding entry for a Peter. If he ever existed this is odd, why fail to get one of your ten kids baptised ?

It is possible that the page of the records is simply missing but the Duthil records for this time are unusually good and complete.  He could have died shortly after birth, many children did. In this case though, unless they buried him in the back garden the death and burial would be in the OPR....there is no such record.

Apart from his birth I can find no documentary evidence that Patrick ever existed, however there is lots to find about Peter. The 1851 census lists Peter age 5 with the same DOB as Patrick, and does not list a Patrick.

 

With no evidence that Patrick died as an infant, the most likely explanation is that in the time honoured Speyside tradition, he was baptised Patrick but called Peter.  This would not be his only change of ID

Francis Peter Cameron 1896

When he was 24 Peter Cameron emigrated to the United States, below is a potted Biography gleaned from one of his descendants. I have corresponded with her and I am assured that this is genuine. There are one or two discrepancies, particularly his age but this was probably no mistake.

Peter Cameron was born in Strathspey, Duthil, Invernesshire, Scotland and immigrated to the US in 1871 at the age of 22.  He came to Fort Dodge, Iowa where he worked for a while in the coalmines. 

 

When he was 24, he married Elmina Butler and they had two daughters, Annie and Leonora. Elmina contracted tuberculosis and died 7 years later.  Peter left Ft. Dodge and moved to Griggs County, North Dakota where he bought a farm.  Three years later, his farm was foreclosed on. He moved away leaving the girls with their aunt, Mary Butler and her husband, Hiram Reed. 

 

The family lost contact with Peter after that and the daughters took the name of Reed although they were never adopted.  The oldest daughter, Ann, died of tuberculosis just as her mother had.  In fact, tuberculosis took the lives of several members of the Butler family.  But the youngest daughter, Leonora, survived and later, after she married, she began to search for her father.

By that time Peter was living in Tacoma, Washington, where he became engaged in the timber business.  He had added the name Francis to his first name and thereafter went by the name of Francis Peter Cameron.  Peter married again in Tacoma and had another family with two daughters and two sons.  But again, his wife died leaving him with four children.  Being established in the area, Peter remained in Tacoma to remarry and raise his four children. 

It took a long time to find Peter.  But his biography, was written in a book published by the Caledonian and St. Andrew's Society's " Cronie's Club" of which he was a member and that biography made it possible for us to finally establish connections that were elusive for so long due to a simple name change. 

 

There is reason to believe that Peter is the child Patrick born to James and Ann as on 26 October 1846 according to the Duthil Parish records.  The two names Peter and Patrick are often interchangeable in Scotland and Patrick is listed as Peter in the 1851 Scotland census records.  The birth dates (Oct 29th and Oct 9th) are very similar, and the year Francis Peter states as his birth year puts him too close to the birth of his next sibling.

From the same source..... "The Cronies Club"

 

My great grandfather, Francis Peter Cameron arrived in the United States in 1874, and after residing briefly in the city of Fort Dodge, Iowa and in Griggs County, Dakota Territory, he settled in Tacoma, Washington Territory in 1888, one year before Washington Statehood. He married twice. His first wife Ella who died in 1901, gave him 4 children; Francis, Jr., Anna, Helen, and Robert. He was engaged in the timber trade throughout his life, and in 1915 along with 12 other prominent Scots in Tacoma formed the Cronies Club. In a 1919 club publication featuring member profiles and biographies titled "Cronies o' Mine", the introduction describes the club's origins. 

"The Cronies Club grew out of a long and intimate association of a number of Scots in Tacoma in perpetuating the glories of Scotland year after year by commemorations of Robert Burn's Birthday and of St. Andrews Day." Cronies o' Mine 1919.

 

The Cronies Club of Tacoma had their own song, Cronies o' Mine, with lyrics which included sketches of the each member.  Francis Peter Cameron's member profile begins with his sketch in that song:

There's Frank P. Cameron, the "Chief o' Lochiel",

Who's heart is as true as the Cameron steel;

A fine auld chap, an' the best o' men,

An' we'll a' sing "The March o' the Cameron Men'

He's a Cronie o' Mine.

Of note here is the absence of any reference to his first wife Elmina or their children. It would seem that Leonora never succeeded in finding her father. One suspects that the name change was to make damn sure he was not found !!

This is one of the few photographs of Francis Peter Cameron. The woman on the left is Helen Grace Cameron (Perry). The picture was taken at their cabin in Des Moines, Washington. Helen moved to California in 1920 so I believe this picture is 1918-1920.

1910 US census.

Click to enlarge.

_edited.jpg

Lavinia Simmons Mother of Almina Butler.

Almina Butler Peter's first wife.

Tacoma city directory 1922. Peter Cameron & family bottom left.

Click to enlarge.

1920 US census.

Click to enlarge.

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